Slices of Life in Iraq

Here are a couple of interesting stories about daily life in Iraq. First the troops. Even those who live on fortified bases and never encounter potential enemies personally are far from safe.

I was wandering over to the condiment table in the mess hall in search of a
sachet of tomato ketchup when the siren sounded: a long, low wail. In a split
second my fellow diners – camouflaged soldiers and civvy-clad contractors – had
flung themselves to the floor or crawled under the nearest table, their arms
held protectively over their heads.

A day earlier I had been talking to two medics as they relaxed under a
camouflage net waiting for their next emergency call. As the siren came, they
threw themselves on the ground with military precision while I clumsily fell off
my chair and on to a pile of cigarette ash.

The scenes can appear a little comic. But there is nothing funny about
them for the soldiers who live day in, day out with rockets and mortar bombs –
so-called indirect fire attacks – pounding the British airbase in Basra up to
ten times a day.

The first that anyone on the base usually knows about it is from the
siren, by which time the rockets or mortar bombs, mostly leftovers from Saddam’s
looted arsenal, are already well on their way from their launch several miles
away. Their target is the air traffic control tower, the only structure tall
enough in a sprawling base as big as a small city to be seen from miles away. MORE

Next, the aftermath of a car bombing in Bagdad sounds like pure chaos.
After the blast near a busy shrine in the mostly Shiite Muslim area of
Karrada, Iraqi firefighters, medical workers, Iraqi police, traffic police,
Iraqi soldiers, American troops, members of two powerful Shiite militias and
ordinary residents jostled for control. With so many forces picking through
charred, bloody wreckage, no single group emerged as the one in charge,
and the
already frenzied scene spiraled into pandemonium...

the scene near the shrine in Karrada, Iraqi firefighters turned their
on smoldering vehicles as medics attended to the injured or recovered the
dead. Iraqi police interviewed one set of witnesses while Iraqi soldiers
questioned another batch. U.S. troops, who arrived in a convoy of Humvees,
shooed away all the bystanders, including other possible

Two unarmed Mahdi Army militiamen barred a journalist from
photographing the scene, even though government authorities said they had no
objection to the photos. Three self-described members of a so-called popular
committee, the neighborhood patrols established by the Iranian-backed Badr
Organization, set up their own checkpoint about 100 feet from where U.S. and
Iraqi authorities had gathered.

Neighborhood residents, skeptical of
all the security forces'
abilities, took it upon themselves to record
license-plate numbers in their
personal notebooks. Some residents even began
collecting shrapnel and other
evidence, launching their own
"investigation." MORE

This doesn't sound like anarchy; it sounds worse than anarchy. No one trusts anyone else even in the midst of disaster. It certainly doesn't seem like the kind of situation that is amenable to compromise.

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